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How to build a winning sales team

Publisher: Kelly Burkart – Posted on 05/17/2013

Maybe you’re used to being a sales force of one, but as your business grows you’ll need to expand your sales staff not only to increase sales, but also to free up your time to manage your growing company. No matter how great your product is, it won’t sell itself.

Take time to build your team. Don’t just fill slots; look for people with the traits to become great producers. They should be outgoing, motivated, confident, and competitive. Even if someone doesn’t have formal sales experience, if they have an abundance of traits that make good salespeople, give them consideration.

Where do you find great salespeople? Ask for referrals. Tap into your professional network of customers, suppliers, and professional associations. Don’t forget to look at the employees you already have. They know your company best and some may be eager to get into sales.

Train your sales team for success. Whether your salespeople are new or seasoned vets, don’t just hire them and throw them in the deep end. Provide training in two areas. First make sure they understand the company, its values, long term goals and culture. Then get into the specifics of selling your products: Your customers, product line, compensation, etc.

Provide motivation. Good salespeople tend to be self-starters, but everyone can benefit from motivation. Whether you reward superior sales performance with cash, vacation time, gift cards, or a primo parking spot, it makes an impression.

Appoint a leader. Rather than doing it yourself, hire or select a sales manager who will devote more time to managing than selling. This should be someone with sales experience, an understanding of your vision for the company, and people skills.

Rely on your sales manager to develop sales strategies, complete sales reports, set sales goals, and track sales performance.

Measure success. Regular evaluation and feedback will keep your sales staff motivated and ensure they are on track to achieve your business goals. Decide what you want your salespeople to focus on. For example, handling major accounts, being the image of the company to your customers, coordinating with other departments to provide customer service. Periodically review how each salesperson measures up to these objectives.

If some are struggling, try to determine why. Are they focusing too much attention on a few small customers or one large customer? Are they wasting time chasing unqualified leads? Are they overpromising and making unreasonable demands on other departments? Work with your sales manager to help them improve their productivity.

To build your sales force, look for people with the qualities you need, and give them the big picture of your goals. Hire a sales manager to keep the team running smoothly. With your sales function in capable hands, you’re free to focus on other aspects of growing your business.


Kelly Burkart is a freelance writer from Minneapolis, Minn. While she has spent most of her time writing about financial services the past 15 years, she has also explored and written about everything from cardiovascular health to travel, higher education and sustainable energy practices.

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